Jack pops out of position suddenly hitting man on side of head… A fitter suffered a fractured skull after attempting to recover a 17-tonne abandoned excavator in Suffolk in September last year.
The haulage operator who the man worked for has since been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after their investigation revealed the company had been in breach of recommended safety guidelines.
The 51-year-old accident victim was an experienced fitter but had been working for the company for just three months when the accident occurred. He sustained the serious head injury after being struck by a heavy-duty jack that was attached to the vehicle which popped out of position suddenly surprising the man.
Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard that the accident victim had been ordered, along with two work colleagues to recover the excavator which had been abandoned in a hedgerow in the town of Chelmondiston for a number of years.
The three employees located the excavator but decided the telescopic handler they had brought with them would be incapable of towing the heavy vehicle. They also noticed the machine’s tyres were flat and had sunk deep into ground, so much so that they were firmly embedded in place and difficult to manoeuvre. The men used bottle jacks in order to raise the vehicle and also placed metal sheets under the tyres so that towing would be less problematic.
However during the lifting operation one of the jacks suddenly popped out of position and hit the accident victim at the side of the head with tremendous force. The man was immediately transported to a local hospital and was diagnosed with a fractured skull. He has since made a full recovery and ten weeks after the accident he was able to resume his working duties at the company.
The HSE argued that the company had failed to consider the potential risks or provide a plan to ensure the work was carried out in a safe manner.
The haulage company pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £3,291 in costs.
HSE Inspector Anthony Brookes spoke after the hearing:
“This incident could so easily have been prevented if the company had chosen to act on its duty of care toward the recovery team as it set off to carry out a non-routine and very hazardous task.
“Employers have a responsibility to provide systems of work that are, as far as practicable, safe and without risk to health. The company clearly failed in this regard and as a result the man was very seriously injured and could have been killed.”